Learning Hard Lesson After Traveling Through Sweden

Homecoming: back in America.

I’ve been back in America for (wow) exactly two months. During that time I’ve been living with my grandma, and it has not been easy. What is written below is bigger than me. It’s something that I could not hold inside of myself any longer, and I believe that’s because someone out there needs to read it.

This is a story of the rough things I’m going through, have been going through, and the shift that happened because of them. I travel to grow.

We are all growing.

Allow my story to be merely a story

or a hard truth that can also be within you.

Right under the surface

or buried deep.

This is real and raw, and I am wildly grateful that you’re here reading it.


I walked.

I walked from my most recent home, an apartment in Uppsala, with two backpacks on my back, my dog attached to the leash in my right hand, and my breakfast of as many carrots I could carry in my left. I was leaving the apartment of a friend I had grown to love. I was leaving a town I’d also grown to love. 

How can I expand so much, so quickly? How can I leave so soon?

Ava, my dog, didn’t know we wouldn’t be going back home. We had a 48-hour journey ahead of us, and it was these moments that made me feel guilty. They say it takes 90,000 lifetimes to finally incarnate as human, and I believe Ava must be at 89,999. I didn’t know I could feel so divinely connected to a dog, but we’re in this together. 

For now.

It was hard to leave.

It was hard, but I’m flowing over with gratitude as I say goodbye silently to each brick, old building, and the flowers that will be gone soon anyway. I saw the look of surprise on the faces of locals I had grown to recognize. They must have had the same feelings of recognition toward me and been surprised I was a backpacker.

I’m surprised too, sometimes. I was a local, however briefly.

The girl at the 7/11 always asked me about my life when I came in. A cute blonde man walked his dog down by the river often, and I would ask to pet his dog, trying my best to flirt. I had friends that would miss me. 

“Are you coming back?”

“Yes. Of course. How could I not?” A huge part of me lives here now. I hope I’ll be back.

To travel is to leave yourself in exchange for the memories, the people, the love, and the way the sky looks different in every country. I know the sky isn’t actually closer in Sweden, but it seems that way when the moon and sun are out simultaneously during the eternal sunshine of summer.

During a sliver of darkness in the night, I took all my clothes off and laid in the grass.

“Aren’t you cold?”

“Yes! This is the feeling of being alive!”

Being alive

It’s a lesson to be this alive when I’m in my grandparent's very small house, caring for my grandma, being yelled at for my grandma, by my grandma, shopping for them, forgetting to brush my teeth, eating too much, eating too little. It’s even a lesson to be this alive on the top of a mountain I’ve climbed before, holding my dog in my arms for the 200th time, crying, laughing, and making things with yarn. 

This is why I travel again and again.

This is why we all travel again. It’s easy to forget what being alive feels like. It’s easy to lose the sense of presence we all crave every moment. 

The meditation of life is a practice, consistently present. It’s okay to lose that feeling. It’s okay to forget that you can feel it every second of every day if you just remember to. It’s not okay to forget forever. This is how regret seeps in. We don't want that. 

I’m staying at my grandmother's house.

I’m staying at my grandmother’s house, because she broke her neck while I was in Sweden. I came straight here after I ate my carrots on my walk, took a bus, then a plane, then another bus, and then drove for 18 hours. 

I’m here, and she yells. Her neck is broken, but she was like this before. She’s confused and unhappy, but that doesn’t make it healthy. 

The most important lesson she taught me is the difference between liking and loving someone. We both love each other, but neither of us like each other. She could never admit it. She couldn’t even understand that those two feelings aren’t cosmically connected. 


If she liked me, she wouldn’t judge in the way she judges or tell me about how I’ll never find a man with my attitude, or how I’m a disgrace as a woman for not intuitively knowing how to use her washer. 

For people that did not learn to love unconditionally, it’s okay to love them conditionally. Have standards. Love yourself, and never allow someone’s unhealthiness to cause you pain or trauma.

Yesterday, I asked the cashier to keep the plastic bag, but my uncle had already grabbed it. He laughed. “I thought you hated plastic bags.” This is my trigger. The way he degrades me. How do I stand in my standards without giving in to him?

“I don’t hate plastic bags. I just think they’re unnecessary. We can do better.”

“Ha. That’s stupid. I should strangle you with this one.”

Do I ignore this? How do I handle this? 

A mirror is always a good thing to be.

“Do you think that was an okay thing to say to your niece, David, my uncle?”

He laughed. I could hear my mother in my head from years of dismissive behavior. That’s just the way he is Christina. He doesn’t mean anything by it.

People that don’t mean what they say are liars. They are either lying to themselves or lying to those they’re speaking to. It’s a lose/lose situation.

I’ve curated my truth so whole-heartedly that I’m never afraid of what will slip from my tongue while intoxicated from tequila, strong weed, or overwhelming lust. Only truth spills out. How could I lie to myself by speaking something that goes against my true feelings? I would never.

I was snapped out of walking within my mind when I noticed he was driving almost entirely on the wrong side of the road. Another car was coming. Did HE notice?

“David, watch out!”

He laughs like something out of an old cartoon.

He laughed again. “Don’t you want to die Christina?” So recently the answer was yes. It was such a sick moment to feel what a huge NO was inside of me now that his recklessness could kill me. I hope he doesn’t. My life is just now getting to the good part.

“Don’t talk to me like that. Drive safely.”

It was at this moment I thought of how recently I was in Sweden. I promised myself not to forget the feeling of being alive. I promised myself to be present. I promised myself to not waste my energy on anger, but I was angry.


The problem is, David is really like that. I know that. So, why am I here?

Why am I in this house being abused, traumatized, and allowing the trauma to live within my bones, making me sick. This is the lesson I’m learning.

I’m learning to choose myself every single day. To love on myself every single day, and my family doesn’t have to be part of that. Not only do they not have to be part of that, they must not be part of that.

As ethereal beings living out our existence as a human, we are all equal, but as human, we’re sometimes not equal. 

My flaw isn’t that my skin isn’t thick enough to live in an abusive household. That is never the flaw. That is never anyone’s flaw. Who taught me to believe that? 


The flaw was that I believed I could be healthy


be here.

I can’t. They can’t. No one can. Why would I want to try? Why have I tried for years? 

The hard things I’m going through. 

The hard things you’re going through.

There is an essential lesson to be learned from it all.

This one took me 23 years to learn. The only households I’ve lived in that weren’t unhealthy and abusive are the houses I’ve called home while traveling. 


I’m grateful for this lesson. So. Grateful.

I raised my standards because of this lesson.

I choose myself more often because of this lesson.

I say no to others, and I say yes to myself because of this lesson. 

I’m preparing to leave- not to run away, but to run towards health. Mind, body, and spirit resting in a home that feels safe. 

I’m not alone in this. It’s so common to settle for kind of okay. It’s easy to make excuses for someone elses behavior when we’re really making excuses for our own.

Are you being honest with yourself? Is your current truth healthy?

Let go of what isn’t true.

Thanks for sharing this with me.

Y’all, thank you for reading this.

It was the result of the intense leveling-up I was forced to confront these past couple months. It can be exhausting to grow. Sometimes that growth is about shedding traumas, pain, and old excuses. This is what I was and am experiencing.

Everything you just read came pouring out of me, and I could not stop it. I was sick for the entire day today, literal snot running out of my face like a stream. So much of something inside of me. As soon as I started writing, the congestion cleared up.

Our bodies are WISE. If you ignore something mental, it will manifest physically. I chose to stop ignoring and feel what I’m going through.

I am here to be.

I am here to be vulnerable to whoever is here with me to receive it. You read this for a reason, and if anything triggered you, spoke to you, or woke something up within you, please feel free to email or DM me. 

Yeah, I like to travel, but it’s not about seeing the things. It’s about showing up in a strange place, arms wide open, asking loudly, “What can you teach me? What am I here to learn?

I wish you all the happiest of travels and many days filled with growth.

Christina GrayComment